Most high-level athletes succeed in spite of their training, nutrition and recovery not because of it.
During his time with the Buffalo Bills, Marshawn Lynch was known to eat Skittles during games and bags of Doritos during lifting sessions.
Chad Johnson would consume a Big Mac before every game he played in the NFL.
Michael Phelps has been touted as eating 8,000-12,000 calories on a daily basis, including multiple sandwiches with fried eggs, cheese and mayo. One time he ate an omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes…for breakfast.
About 12 years ago, I heard chocolate milk was the best recovery drink. It has a perfect blend of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, and it tastes good. This was during my first internship at Gold’s Gym in Lancaster, N.Y. (Side note: I learned a great deal in my time there and met many wonderful people who continue to motivate me today.)
Back to chocolate milk: It shouldn’t be considered a recovery drink – let alone a good one.
If we only look at the macronutrient content of chocolate milk, it has eight grams of protein and 22 grams of carbohydrates. It doesn’t sound that bad, right? In fact, Nesquik lauds itself on being an excellent source for postgame nutrition. It states it has the ideal ratio of protein to carbs, as stated above, and is much better when compared to a sports drink (i.e. Gatorade) or juice. A video (produced by Nesquik) teaches viewers how to be good “soccer moms,” by bringing Nesquik to games because it will make everyone happy.
Welcome to marketing. Remember the milk commercials from the 90s and early 2000s: “Milk does a body good” or “Got milk?”
These ad campaigns were developed and funded by the same organizations selling the product. A marketer’s job is to get you to buy the product. The best way to do this is to establish a pattern in young children who are trying to emulate their sports heroes. There were ad campaigns during this same time for various companies featuring Michael Jordan, Tyra Banks, Derek Jeter and the list goes on. They were paid money to be in these campaigns whether or not they ate the food. Do you really think Mike was pounding quarter pounders at half time?
Take a look at the label Nesquik’s chocolate milk. The first ingredient is nonfat milk that has been fortified and pasteurized. The second ingredient is sugar followed by calcium carbonate, corn starch, gellan gum, cellulose gum and carrageenan. The last four ingredients are all thickening agents. They are modifying the texture of this milk drink to be thicker and more filling. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it does make it more processed. The more processed a product is the less likely it will be readily absorbed by the body and the less helpful it will be to enhance recovery.
We’ve been taught calcium is what we need to make our bones big and strong so we need lots of it, and the only way that we can do this is through the consumption of dairy products.
Here’s the truth: Calcium is an important nutrient, however, people put it in their bodies like it’s the gasoline in a car when in reality it is more like the oil. The gas is magnesium. Magnesium is highly underrated. It is involved in every cellular process within the body and helps to regulate bone mineral health and bone density. Now the funny thing about the added calcium isn’t the fact that it’s added, but rather the type – calcium carbonate.
Calcium is all the same, right? Wrong. Calcium has many different varieties. This is important. It comes down to the concept of bioavailability. Bioavailability is how well and easily a nutrient can be absorbed. Think about it like this: Calcium carbonate is actually 60 percent carbonate and 40 percent calcium. If you have 1,000 milligrams of calcium carbonate, you will only have 400 milligrams of calcium of which you will only absorb about 38 percent (150-160 milligrams). Part of the reason of this is that the carbonate neutralizes the stomach acid that you need to digest the food you are eating. That’s why Tums are composed of calcium carbonate. How well do you think you can absorb nutrients that you consume with this ingredient?
The second ingredient is sugar. While it has less sugar than other sports drinks or juices, it’s only by a gram or two. Having a spike in blood sugar in a post-workout meal is good. It helps deliver nutrients to the muscles to begin the recovery process; however, natural sugars will always be best rather than processed or added sugars. These types of sugars don’t provide any health benefits. That doesn’t mean I think fruit juice is an acceptable recovery drink; it isn’t. Fruit juice is just as bad as soda when it comes to the sugar content and it doesn’t provide much in terms of nutrients because again it is processed and it is stored on shelves for long periods of time. Sugar found in fruit, not the juice, is paired with fiber, antioxidants, polyphenols and other micronutrients that provide more sustainable energy and enhance recovery rather than just providing a blood sugar spike.
Here’s the thing: Real milk IS good. Nesquik is not real milk.
Unprocessed full-fat milk from cows that are raised on grass is good. The concept of getting millions of people access to milk was a good idea. It was well intentioned, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. When milk is pasteurized it loses a large percentage of the nutrients within it that allows us to easily digest it. In fact, people with lactose intolerances have a significantly higher ability to digest raw milk. The milk you buy at the grocery store is a poor imitation of the real thing. It is stripped of its vital nutrients, it’s harder to digest, and it does not provide good nutrition to an athlete or anyone for that matter.
Processed milk is inflammatory. It will actually slow down the healing or recovery process. Doctors recommend to patients to avoid dairy during times of sickness. This is because of the mucus that milk makes your body produce. It creates and increases inflammatory cytokines throughout the body and will promote joint inflammation and stiffness.
About 3/4 of the world is intolerant to lactose. The main carbohydrate in dairy is lactose, a milk sugar that is made of the two simple sugars glucose and galactose. When we’re infants, our bodies produce a digestive enzyme called lactase, which breaks down lactose from mother’s milk. Our bodies were simply not meant to process pasteurized milk. If you feel gassy or bloated after consuming dairy, that’s your body telling you to stop. If you suffer from migraines or asthma, try eliminating dairy from your diet and see what happens.
Research shows an increased incidence of osteoporosis and bone breaks with increased milk consumption. In a study from the British Medical Journal, women who consumed three or more glasses of milk per day had a 60 percent increased risk for developing hip fractures and a 16 percent increased risk for developing any fracture. A Harvard Nurses’ Health Study that followed 72,000 women for more than 18 years showed that there was no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk.
Processed milk is high in estrogen and progesterone. Do you think dairy cows just willingly lactate all day, every day or until the cows come home? They need to be stimulated to do so. This is done by pumping these dairy cows full of sex hormones or by constantly keeping them pregnant. These hormones will ALWAYS make their way into the milk. This increases your risk of cancer and will significantly slow your recovery.
Cows have become factory farmed because of the high demands for red meat and dairy products in the U.S. This means that milk production must continue to happen at a high rate. These animals are fed diets that dramatically increase their ability to gain weight, size and produce milk. They are fed diets composed of highly processed inflammatory grains like corn and soy. They are not fed diets that are high in grasses and hays like they would normally eat. This lack of normal food dramatically increases the need for their bodies to process the foods that they are given. Many of these cows suffer from liver disease and bacterial infections so they are then, in turn, medicated with antibiotics. There is a race to get these cows’ products out as quick as possible before they become too sick or spread their infection to their counterparts.
Would you want to drink pus-infested, antibiotic- and hormone-laden water that has been shown to increase cancer risks and bone fractures? Then what are you doing with milk? This isn’t a conspiracy or sales pitch. This is about knowledge and better understanding where our food comes from and what it is doing to our bodies.
Studies that state chocolate milk is a better recovery drink than regular milk, water or sports drinks are simply marketing at its finest. NONE of those are designed to be recovery drinks. Water and sports drinks are for hydration purposes, not recovery. It’s like saying that sports drinks do a better job of hydrating you compared to antifreeze. You are comparing it to products that aren’t supposed to do that in the first place. Of course, your product is going to fare better in your “study.”
No one wants to believe they are doing something wrong when it comes to taking care of themselves, or their kids or athletes. I am not here to tell you it’s wrong. I am here to offer a better solution. Real food works very well. A hardboiled egg and an apple have the same macronutrient breakdown but a much dense nutrient profile. And, bonus, they will cost you less! Something to think about on your next grocery trip…
PSA: Eggs are not dairy products, although they are sold in the dairy section.